Hey Niko, tell us about yourself.
I’m Niko (Nikole) and I’m originally from Bilbao in the north of Spain. From a very young age I started travelling, and it has become my way of life. I was born an explorer, and I love discovering new places, new cultures, new people. Aside from the travelling bug, which I picked up from my father, one of my favourite hobbies growing up was looking at other people’s houses (as the daughter of a great interior designer it was inevitable!), so I decided to study interior architecture in Madrid. When I finished, I worked as an interior designer – until 2017 when I went to Kenya on holiday and decided to move there. I fell completely in love with the culture, the country, the colours, the smells… I had also lived for a while in New York, an incredible experience, but for me, nothing compared to Kenya and India that followed. Nowadays I am based in Mexico. There is something about these countries which have a daily mentality that I find more grounded and inspiring. Less stress, less competition, more presence.
You have a clothing line, BAKAR. How did that begin?
BAKAR is a combination of my two passions, travel and design. I started the brand when I temporarily moved to a small island called Lamu in Kenya. I worked on an architectural project there, with a local partner. During my stay I did not find it easy to find clothes. The main religion on the island is Islam so, as a woman, my knees and shoulders were required to be covered, but the weather was very hot. I started making my own dresses, and people started to ask where I bought them from, so I decided to make some more pieces to sell. The brand started getting bigger and that’s when I decided to reinvest the money I earned from the architectural project, to go to Senegal researching for BAKAR as I heard the colours and dyes in West Africa were amazing.
Back in Kenya, I had to find a place to manufacture the pieces, and I found a beautiful project empowering women in very difficult circumstances in Kitengela, an hour away from Nairobi. I did my first line with them. After that I decided to go back to Spain and look for a pattern maker who could help me develop more designs. While developing the patterns, I kept travelling for inspiration, new techniques, new patterns, and ended up in Rajasthan India. Here, my love affair with India began, where I spent many months a year, working and travelling. I learned about block printing, screen printing, waving, and other fabric printing techniques. Today I design my own prints and colourways.
Why did you choose Mexico for your next adventure? What is your life there like?
I chose Mexico for many reasons, the first being that when I arrived people were very warm, and super welcoming. But the main reason was that I love the contrast between contemporary, cosmopolitan, and also the slower pace and more authentic lifestyle I can enjoy here. I live in a mix between India, Kenya, Morocco on the one hand and Madrid, London, New York on the other. Big modern cities versus old traditional ones. So many people come here from around the world, the mix is amazing. But at the same time there is a relaxed feeling about it, not like in other big cities where everything happens at a fast pace, and there is a pressure to become someone, to stand out. Life is really focused on work in many of the cities I have previously lived in, and there is not much time left for friends and family. Here in Mexico City there is no need to plan things days or weeks in advance, things just happen. It’s a huge city, but if you want to see someone for lunch or a coffee it is pretty easy. I love the food trucks which are everywhere and I love when a lot of the daily life happens outdoors, like in India. The smells, the colours, the scenes, I find they captivate all my senses. Another reason is that travelling around Mexico is very easy, helped by the great weather all year around. I can choose from mountains to beaches, lagoons or deserts. There are so many options!